Productivity and time management can be really hard to keep control of in the charity world. Every minute counts. Everyone is a priority. And there's always MORE you could be doing. So how, in this fact paced, easily stressed environment, can we make sure we are making the most of our time?
1. Be Time self- aware - Get to know, or acknowledge, your own peak and drop spots. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Many of us are more productive at certain points in the day. Plan your work around these peaks and troughs. If your focus and concentration is better in the morning (I know mine is), and you know you are going to have lots of interruption or visitors, ask them to come in the afternoon and plan your focussed work in the morning
2. Put your work in your calendar - don't just write a to-do list but then not have time to do it, actually allocate time to each task in your calendar
3. Don't let emails run your life - one of the biggest time thieves is our inbox and the constant influx of new messages. In my daily routine, I read my emails in bed in the morning with a cup of coffee and respond (where necessary). I then shower and get dressed, get the girls up, ready and out to school, and then come back and work on the tasks scheduled in my diary for the morning. I then only check my emails again when I break to have some lunch
4. Work and plan your work in manageable chunks of time - In one of my favourite films, About a Boy (the first film Mr W and I went to see together), Hugh Grant's character talks about his days being in units of time. I use a time system based on the Pomodoro Technique principles, but I work in blocks of 45 minutes and schedule my work in that fashion. So, some tasks I know will take 2 blocks (the most I will work without a break) and others just one. When you're focussed, planned and prepared, its amazing what you can get done in 45 minutes! I use the timer on my phone to set the 45 minute chunks of time
5. Eat the Frog - Eating the frog basically means do the biggest task / worst task / hardest task / task you want to do the least /task your most likely to procrastinate over first. That will then set you up for an amazing day. The task will be behind you and the dread of it won't be hanging over you. And the sense of achievement helps your motivation and productivity. (Apparently, Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”)
6. Schedule in your social media hit - we all know you're going to have a read, a scroll and a surf, so rather than kidding yourself its not going to happen, why not schedule it in, and set time boundaries so you don't get too distracted. Again, if you're struggling to keep to the boundaries, use the timer on your phone
7. Set goals not lists - endless to do lists can be counterproductive. Instead, set yourself a goal and then identify the tasks that need to be completed to achieve the goal. Be realistic. How many 45 minute blocks will each task take, what can you really achieve in a day? Once you get used to working in this planned way, you become better at estimating how much time things really take
8. Plan for the unexpected - we all know that things we weren't expecting crop up on a daily basis. Once you're in control of your time and your focus, you can more easily cope with distractions. Do not fill every 45 minute block in your day with tasks and commitments - you know that unexpected things will crop up. But by planning in the essential things, you know you can make sure they still happen in-spite of the unknown
9. Recycle and Optimise - Don't always start from scratch. If you can, take something similar you've already worked on and repurpose it. And don't waste your efforts for a one-off hit, use the information you have and apply it to other similar individuals / companies / organisations. For example, a mentee of mine recently did some research into a local golf clubs so she could approach the new Captain to ask them about charity of the year choices. I encouraged her to use the research she'd done to approach all of the local golf clubs not just the one she was specifically looking at
10. Set time limits on your meetings - one of the most unproductive parts of my day previously in in-house roles, was meetings - meetings with no agenda, meetings with no Chair, meetings that didn't need to be meetings, meetings about meetings, and meetings with no structure. Where you have influence, you need to define the purpose of the meeting and what needs to be different at the end of the meeting. One organisation I worked in had a rule that items in meetings had to be identified as 'for decision', ' for discussion', or 'for information' and each item had a set amount of time allocated to it. This set-up worked really well. In Mr W's workplace, they hold some meetings standing up - so they are focussed, short and productive!
11. Establish Need - do you really need to be doing that particular task? If it really does need to be done, does it need to be done by you? Does it need to be done in the way and the detail you're doing it? Could it be done less often? Could it be automated?
12. Make each day successful - by planning your time properly, and by setting goals and milestones, you are in much more control over your time and your productivity. And getting used to setting these will help you reach and see success every day. Imagine if you already knew, not just what you needed to achieve next week, but what you were going to achieve next week! How amazing would that be?
If you'd like to know more about how you could improve your (individual, team or organisation) productivity, book a call or drop us an email and find out more about our productivity workshops and training
Happy time-keeping! Claire x
P.S - Here's the song referenced in this week's blog post title - happy listening! https://youtu.be/vE3zhu9ROjo